Cancercation: n. a period of time a person disconnects from reality to take care of oneself to fight cancer. A cancercation usually involves a leave from work and one’s job becomes fighting cancer. During a cancercation, life goes on for everyone else, but, for the patient, time stands still.
My cancercation began about 15 months ago when I was first diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Unlike other things that end in “cation,” there was no relaxation and restoration. Instead, it was my “job” to fight cancer. During this time period, I experienced hormone therapy, over 50 radiation treatments, chemotherapy, four surgeries, and a few hospital stays. My social circle was doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, and radiation techs. If I were to have a performance review of the past year plus, I’d say I deserve a raise for all the “work” that I have accomplished; I have proven my worth. However, the real reward for a job well done is remission (I’d also like a week at Canyon Ranch!)! Needless to say, I am happy my tenure as a cancer patient has come to a close.
Tomorrow marks the end of my 15-month cancercation. I have reached a point in my recovery where I am ready to return to my job as a teacher. I am returning to my job with both excitement and trepidation. I am looking forward to reconnecting with a community that has meant so much to me during my challenging year; this community has always had my back. I am excited to have meaningful work again. I’ve missed my colleagues and the students and families with whom I work. The trepidation comes in when I think about what happened in the 15 months I was away – new students, new faculty, even a new email platform. I have to rebuild relationships and establish new ones. I have a lot of catching up to do.
The end of my cancercation does not mark the end of cancer in my life. The “R” word doesn’t necessarily mean the battle is over. I’ve been here before … there’s physical, emotional and even financial recovery. The transition from patient to person can be filled with ups and downs. During recovery from Hodgkins lymphoma, I struggled with post-traumatic stress, along with anxiety and depression. For me, I am holding on to hope – something I didn’t have a lot of during my cancercation.
As I end this cancercation, there is so much I am grateful for – my amazing Mom and Dad who were with me every step of the way, my friends who stayed connected with me even though sometimes it was hard for me to stay connected with them, the world-class doctors and nurses and other medical professionals who helped me navigate my treatment, the people at work who were unwavering in their support and flexibility, the nice lady in the radiation waiting room who comforted me when I was upset … the list is never-ending.
Now it’s time to get back to work!